I grew up in southern California and I've always wanted to explore new cultures. Learning Spanish was one way to accomplish it. My dream is to pursue bilingual photojournalism and travel the world.
Studying abroad in Spain has been incredible! I've experienced a roller coaster of emotions and have found myself in many new situations. I learn something new every day, in school, about the culture of Spain or a good ol' life lesson. I am finishing my Spanish major and Art minor in Spain and will return to Sonoma State to finish my Communications major.
Here is our CSU IP group on the second floor of our school, where we spend the majority of our time, next to our director's office and across from the print shop. Our Reunidas classes are located here in the building of Geografía e Historia. Here's a tip: There is a beautiful study hall across the street, to the left of the front entrance. One thing that I love about the Universidad is that there are separate buildings spread out on campus that all correlate with your area of study, and all of them make up what is the University as a whole. And each of them has its own library.
Every building at the University has a cafeteria. The food ordering system is a little different, but you will get used to it as we all have. In Spain, they eat what is referred to as, "The Mediterranean Diet." This consists of a lot of fish, tuna in particular is very popular, paella, olive oil, ham and carbohydrates and yogurt. Our first food discrepancy, tortillas are not flour and corn hand made delicious Mexican balls of dough, they are a flat egg and potato omelet - and don't argue with them about it, it does you no good.
This is our first tour of Madrid. Although we were still adjusting to the time schedule and sleepy with our stomachs a little queasy, we were just so thrilled to be exploring the city that we would be living in for the next year. Walking through Madrid we passed by various iconic places that I am now very familiar with: La Puerta del Sol, El Prado, El Real Jardín Botánico, La Reina Sofía and countless others. Our group is very close, like a small family. We are one another's confidants, support, friends and study partners. And even though we are all very different, the beautiful commonality that we all share is our desire to study abroad.
One of my favorite things about Madrid, and Spain in general, is the fact that there are musicians everyone. While there are Flamenco performances in Madrid, Flamenco-singers and dancers-Inundate the south of Spain. Every metro station has musicians that play in the hallways or even in your same subway car. The streets are often lined with interesting talent, similar to San Francisco. After my first month in Madrid I began to feel musically inspired.
This is the Puerta del Sol, one of the best known and busiest places in Madrid, and what will likely become a hot spot for you if you come to Madrid. There is always something to do: great tapas bars, clubs, entertainment, shopping, and at night all the entertainers come out.
The search for housing began during our second week. We were given a thorough housing overview, including the "do's," "don'ts" and "how-to's," which helped immensely. This is the building that I live in. One difference between the houses in the U.S. and Madrid is that in Madrid everything is apartment-style living, called "pisos." "Piso" would translate to "floor," like the level that you live on in the building, but it is also the word you use to describe what type of house you live in. There are no solitary, built-on-the-ground, white-picket-fence houses here in the center of Madrid.
The fruits and vegetables in particular in Spain are so fresh and lovely. This is a fruit stand in Barcelona, just as popular in Madrid. There are fruterias at various corners and all of the food is super affordable, in contrast to US food prices. Fruits and vegetables are cheaper than processed foods here. You can get one piece of fruit or a kilo or more. And just wait till you try the fresh pastry shops! I am dangerously in love with tartas de manzana.
Shopping anyone? The Rastro is the largest outdoor swap meet in Europe and we are fortunate enough to be located right next to it. Every Sunday, from about 9 am until 3 pm the streets of La Latina, a section in Madrid, turn into rows upon rows of booths. You can buy anything and everything at The Rastro and generally for much less than at the stores. I bought a great winter coat and scarves for my whole family. I would have to say that fashion-wise, I am enamored with the fact that there are so many beautiful scarves for sale here, at every corner, in every store and all over The Rastro.
One of the opportunities that we have as students studying in Madrid is access to amazing, monumental museums, The Prado being the largest. I am currently enrolled in Art History at The Prado and I attend a lecture on Monday and Tuesday mornings at the university, and a practica in The Prado for 2 hours every Wednesday. With some of the world's most famous artists deriving from Europe I am experiencing first hand the history and the works of art every week.
Across the street from The Prado are The Botanical Gardens. I visited the gardens on Halloween this year at the end of the fall season and the trees and the colors truly reflected that. It is beautiful. There is a lot of plant life and we have been told to return in the spring, when the flowers bloom.
I have already been to more performances in the past 3 months than I have attended in the last few years back at home! This is Madrid's Symphony Hall and I went with my friends and our student director from the IP program to see Diego, El Cigala, who is considered to be one of the most famous and talented Flamenco singers today. The acoustic sounds were impressive and my hot tip is to be the first person in line an hour before the performance starts, the tickets are offered for an incredibly low rate and you receive a discount with your student ID card. I paid half of what my friends paid and I was able to request seats right next to them.
Las Molinas (the windmills) are located near Toledo, only an hour from Madrid. The view was incredible and the windmills larger than life! As a part of the IP program we get to travel with the group to a few places. Segovia, Toledo, Extremadura and Sevilla will be our trips. All of our trips have been incredible. In Extremadura, which is south of Madrid, we stayed over night in a hotel and were able to see 3 different regions made up of impressive and historic Roman art. There are many opportunities to travel throughout Spain and Europe as well.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Spain